9 Books to Empower Environmental Action in the Southwest and Beyond

By Kim Cassels   •   April 22, 2024

9 Books to Empower Environmental Action in the Southwest and Beyond

Guide reading the Yampa River map while lounging on his boat at camp - Mild to Wild

To those who have stumbled across this book list, Happy Earth Day! Or any other day you happen to be here. As an outfitter of outdoor recreation that depends on Mother Nature, on a day dedicated to recognizing her vital need for protection, we thought to go with one of the things we do best— share the knowledge. 

These books focus on themes of action that complement the impressive research of the authors. Because sometimes it feels like the Earth is too big for us to make an impact, but as the beloved conservationist Herm Hoops said, “We need to understand that we can lose everything through “a thousand cuts” or gigantic projects because well-meaning people stayed silent. What can they do? These days it is hard, but a river begins with a tiny trickle from the rocks at its headwaters.” 

Take a look at the books we’ve listed below, and get inspired with us to continue fighting for a better, more sustainable future in the outdoors, and the West at large. 

#1 Science Be Dammed: How Ignoring Inconvenient Science Drained the Colorado River

Book cover of Science Be Dammed

By Eric Kuhn and John Fleck, published in 2019 

Hard Copy of Science Be Dammed 

Audiobook of Science Be Dammed

“Science Be Dammed” highlights the critical issues surrounding water management in the western United States, revealing the dire consequences of ignoring clear scientific warnings. Despite the early evidence found in the 1920s that the Colorado River couldn’t support ambitious development plans, decision-makers persisted in unsustainable practices. 

Authors Eric Kuhn and John Fleck expose how the selective use of information has perpetuated this mismanagement, contrary to common belief. Today, as water managers grapple with the legacy of past errors, the book emphasizes the need for a comprehensive understanding of both science and policy to navigate the current crisis. 

Offering valuable insights into decision-making in the era of climate change, “Science Be Dammed” underscores the importance of incorporating sound scientific knowledge into future water management strategies.

#2 The Great Displacement: Climate Change and the Next American Migration

Book cover of The Great Displacement

By Jake Bittle, published in 2023 

Hard Copy of The Great Displacement 

Audiobook of the The Great Displacement 

“The Great Displacement” unveils the hidden narrative of climate migration within the United States, weaving together personal anecdotes of those affected, depicting communities torn apart by environmental disasters, and outlining the broader implications for society amidst an inevitable changing future. 

Contrary to the notion of climate change as a future phenomenon, the book exposes how its effects are already unfolding across the nation, with thousands displaced from their homes due to climate-related disasters. From Louisiana’s submerged regions to California’s fire-ravaged zones, and the economic shifts catalyzed by mounting climate risks in insurance and mortgage markets. 

Anticipating the largest migration in American history over the next fifty years, this book forewarns of the profound transformations awaiting the nation, from the erosion of historic communities to the reshaping of geographical landscapes, emphasizing the urgency of understanding and addressing climate-induced migration.

#3 Losing Eden: An Environmental History of the American West (Environment and Region in the American West) 

Book cover of Losing Eden

By Sara Dant, published with New Revision 2023

Hard Copy of Losing Eden

Audible of Losing Eden

 “Losing Eden” challenges historical narratives by highlighting the overlooked influence of the physical environment in shaping the American West. Sara Dant presents a nuanced perspective, debunking the myth of the West as an untouched “Eden” and exploring its complex history of human habitation and alteration. 

Through a lively narrative, Dant covers key events such as migration, territorial acquisition, resource exploitation, and climate change, organized around themes of economic success, public land management, and sustainability. The revised edition incorporates the latest scientific insights and includes a new chapter on climate change, offering a comprehensive reflection on the multicultural history of the region. 

With updated content and enhanced visuals, “Losing Eden” underscores the ongoing interaction between people and the natural world, providing essential analysis for understanding the evolving dynamics of the American West.

#4 The Great Divide: The Rocky Mountains in the American Mind 

Book cover of The Great Divide

By Gary Ferguson, published in 2006

Hard Copy of The Great Divide

In Gary Ferguson’s exploration of the Rocky Mountains, he unveils a tapestry of dreams and aspirations that have thrived in this iconic American landscape for over a century. From the original indigenous people, to 1960s hippies, to modern adventure travelers equipped with the latest technology, Ferguson paints vivid portraits of those drawn to the Rockies’ rugged allure. 

Through these tales, he underscores the profound connection between wild lands and the cherished ideals of freedom, while also cautioning against the potential loss if we fail to preserve our ties to these natural spaces.

#5 All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis

Book cover All We Can Save

By Katharine K. Wilkinson, published in 2020

Hard Copy of All We Can Save

Audiobook of All We Can Save 

“All We Can Save” heralds a resurgence of feminine leadership within the climate movement, advocating for a more inclusive and collaborative approach rooted in compassion and connection. Recognizing the crucial role of women and girls as agents of change, the book highlights the expertise and diverse perspectives of female leaders across various fields, aiming to enrich public discourse on climate change. 

Through a blend of essays, poetry, and art, it offers both solace and guidance, urging readers to confront the challenges posed by the climate crisis with truth, courage, and collective action. Curated by climate leaders, the book celebrates visionaries who are driving positive change and inspires readers to embrace life-giving possibilities for the future.

#6 The Water Lady: How Darlene Arviso Helps a Thirsty Navajo Nation

Book cover of The Water Lady

By Alice B. McGinty, published in 2021

Hard Copy of The Water Lady

In the arid landscape of New Mexico, Cody, a Navajo boy, faces the harsh reality of empty water barrels, prompting Darlene Arviso to take action. As she drives her school bus and tanker truck, she becomes a lifeline for Cody’s family and many others on the reservation, delivering essential water supplies with unwavering dedication. 

This inspiring true story showcases the resilience and generosity of a Native American woman who tirelessly serves her community, embodying the spirit of strength and solidarity.

#7 Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants 

Book cover of Braiding Sweetgrass

By Robin Wall Kimmerer, published in 2015

Hard Copy of Braiding Sweetgrass

Audiobook of Braiding Sweetgrass

In “Braiding Sweetgrass,” Robin Wall Kimmerer seamlessly integrates her dual perspectives as a botanist and a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation to craft a journey that is both mythic and scientific, sacred and historical. 

Through her reflections, Kimmerer reveals how plants, animals, and other living beings serve as our oldest teachers, offering gifts and lessons that enrich our lives and deepen our connection to the natural world. She argues that true ecological consciousness arises from acknowledging and celebrating our reciprocal relationship with all living beings, emphasizing the importance of listening to their voices and understanding the earth’s generosity. 

By embracing this perspective, Kimmerer suggests, we can cultivate a more harmonious and sustainable existence, where we give back to the earth as it gives to us.

#8 The Soil Will Save Us: How Scientists, Farmers, and Foodies Are Healing the Soil to Save the Planet

Book cover of The Soil Will Save Us

By Kristin Ohlson, published in 2023

Hard Copy of The Soil Will Save Us 

Audible of The Soil Will Save Us 

In “The Soil Will Save Us,” Kristin Ohlson explores the critical role of soil in mitigating climate change, revealing how centuries of poor agricultural practices have depleted soil carbon, contributing to global warming. 

Drawing on her familial connection to farming and gardening, Ohlson presents a compelling argument for regenerative agriculture as a solution to sequester atmospheric carbon into beneficial soil carbon. Through engaging storytelling, she introduces pioneering scientists, farmers, and visionaries who are leading the way in restoring soil health, addressing not only climate change but also a myriad of environmental challenges. 

Ohlson’s work revolutionizes our understanding of food, landscapes, and our relationship with the Earth, offering hope for a more sustainable future grounded in the nurturing of soil ecosystems.

#9 Year of No Garbage: Recycling Lies, Plastic Problems, and One Woman’s Trashy Journey to Zero Waste Paperback 

Book cover of Year of No Garbage

By Eve O. Schaub, published in 2023

Hard Copy of Year of No Garbage

Audiobook of Year of No Garbage 

In her latest book, Eve O. Schaub takes on her most daunting challenge yet: living without creating any trash for an entire year, even amidst a pandemic. 

Alongside her family, Schaub explores the broken nature of modern recycling, the misleading claims of flushable wipes and compostables, and the pervasive impact of plastic on the environment and human health. 

With eye-opening revelations about the harmful effects of plastic pollution, Schaub’s humorous yet insightful narrative prompts readers to reconsider their own consumption habits and environmental impact. 


More Reading

Real River Runners Write Letters – Herm Hoops and River Conservation 

5 Organizations Every River and Wilderness Lover Should Know About 

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